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live The court gives Maria to "The Smile of the Child"

31 May 2014 / 13:05:38  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The voluntary jurisdiction department of the district court in Larissa has placed little Maria in custody of child protection foundation "The Smile of the Child". According to a publication in the local Eleftheria newspaper, the decision was taken on Thursday. The court deprived of custodial rights the two Roma from Farsala in whose house the child was found in October 2013, rejected the request of the Bulgarian State Agency for Child Protection and accepted the prosecutor's proposal to place the child in custody of the foundation.

According to the article in Eleftheria, the decision states, "The Court deprives Eleftheria Dimopoulou and Christos Salis of custodial rights relating to the minor female named "Maria", born in Lamia on 31 January 2009, who is living at the non-profit foundation "The Smile of the Child". It places the aforementioned minor child in full custody of non-profit foundation "The Smile of the Child".

In connection with the request by the Bulgarian State Agency for Child Protection to obtain custody of Maria, the court decided that this is not in favour of the best interests of the child, as it will disrupt the girl's psychosomatic development, "taking into account the fact that this will bring a new change in her surroundings as well as her age (5 years). This would result in even greater uncertainty and tension for her, as she will need to learn another language and to integrate into very different social structures. We note that the persons defined as the child's biological family in Bulgaria have not taken any action to communicate with, or search for, minor Maria, from her birth to this day. Therefore, the case is not about a connection with her family and this argument was not brought to the fore by the responsible person involved in the trial."

The trial for the custody started on 18 March 2014. During the meeting, the Bulgarian state represented by the State Agency for Child Protection was involved in the process with the request for Maria be placed in its custody. According to the article in Eleftheria, its arguments had been presented by a lawyer and Bulgaria’s Consul in Athens Lubomir Georgiev had testified in the case. Maria’s alleged "father" Christos Salis, who is detained in connection with the case, attended the same meeting but did not take part in the trial because he was not represented by a defender.

GRReporter sought Consul Lubomir Georgiev for a comment. He confirmed that he was aware of the decision of Larissa court but would not comment, saying that the case is sensitive as it relates to custody of a child and directed us to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sofia for comments on the case.

Tags: Crime newsMariaTrialThe Smile of the Child FoundationState Agency for Child Protection
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